Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 22, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)

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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, three quick points.

The procedure being employed is bad for the country, it is bad for the Senate, and my Republican colleague, Senator Cochran from Mississippi, expressed himself very well. If we give in to this, pack and go home. We don't deserve to be here.

Now, I have a proposal, I say to my good friend, Senator Tester. I have a proposal that does two things. It helps those who leave the military get a better GI benefit. He is right; we need to increase the money we give to people who leave the service to go to college. But the Webb bill, unfortunately, according to CBO, hurts retention. The benefits of $52, $53 billion are all driven to the people who would leave, and the consequence of that is we are going to hurt retention, according to CBO, by 16 percent.

Our approach, Senators MCCAIN, BURR, and many of us here, is to do two things: Increase the benefit for those who leave but entice people to stay and reward those who will make a career out of the military. The backbone of the military, I say to Senator Tester, is the career NCOs, and we have a proposal that if they will stay in for 6 years, they can transfer half their benefits to their family members, to their spouse or to their child. If they will stay to the 12-year point, they can transfer 100 percent of their GI benefits to their spouse or their child.

That would reward people for staying in and making a career. They can get their retirement pay and have money to send their kids to college. It rewards people to stay in the military and make a career of the military at a time we need a career force because we don't draft people anymore.

This is not World War II, this is not Vietnam, this is a global struggle being fought by a few, and we need to do two things: Reward those who serve and decide to go back into civilian life, and tell those families and military members who will stay on for a career, God bless you, we are going to treat you differently than we have ever treated you before. We are going to give you a benefit you have never had before. You are not only going to be able to retire, but you are going to be able to send your kids to college without using a dime of your retirement pay.

But under this procedure, we can't even talk about this. To my Republican colleagues who denied me a chance to put up my idea, shame on you. I have never done that to you all. Now, if there is some project in this bill that means that much to you that you are going to throw the rest of us over, we don't need to be here.

As to the war and the funding, Senator Reid said on April 20, 2007:

This war is lost. The surge has not accomplished anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.

April 20, 2007. April 13, 2007:

Reid said he plans to continue an aggressive path for early withdrawal from Iraq and does not particularly care if the Republicans are trying to paint that position as a lack of support for U.S. forces. Why? Because we are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war.

SCHUMER, April 25, 2007:

The war in Iraq is a lead weight attached to their ankles, Schumer warned, predicting that congressional Democrats will pick up additional Republican votes for Democratic initiatives as the 2008 elections approach. We will break them, because they are looking extinction in the eye, Schumer declared, making no attempt to hide his glee.

Come down to the floor today and stand by those statements. It is not about the Republicans winning or losing seats, it is about this Nation being able to be safer. It is about winning in Iraq, not being a stakeholder in our defeat. It has never been about the next election to me, it has been about standing behind moderate forces in Iraq that will fight al-Qaida. Well over a year later, we have evidence now from the surge, with better security, that Muslims in Iraq have taken up arms, stood by us, and are giving al-Qaida a punishing blow. Reconciliation, political economic reconciliation in Iraq is beginning to bear fruit because of better security and Iranian desires to dominate that country, to kill Americans, and split Iraq. They are losing. We are killing special groups from Iran by the droves.

So I hope this President, President Bush, will veto this bill, if that is what it will take.

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